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50th Anniversary of the Apollo 1 Fire
Old 01-26-2017, 03:47 PM   #1
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50th Anniversary of the Apollo 1 Fire

January 27 is the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The fire occurred during a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy.

Hundreds honor Apollo crew 50 years after fire - News - Panama City News Herald - Panama City, FL
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Old 01-26-2017, 04:21 PM   #2
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A sad day...
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Old 01-26-2017, 05:57 PM   #3
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That is one of those few events that far back that I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.
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Old 01-26-2017, 07:41 PM   #4
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From the article:

Quote:
The Apollo 1 fire - NASA's first space tragedy - long has been overshadowed by the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia accidents. [...] The anniversaries of all three big accidents fall within days: Apollo 1 on Jan. 27, Challenger on Jan. 28 and Columbia on Feb. 1.
It didn't occur to me that the anniversaries of these 3 events were so close.
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Old 01-27-2017, 05:04 AM   #5
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DW, DD and I went to see 'Hidden Figures' last night and I commented to DD that Gus Grissom had subsequently died in the Apollo 1 fire 6 years later. I hadn't realized that the anniversary was today nor that the three anniversaries were so close together. Brave men and women as were the characters portrayed in 'Hidden Figures'.
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Old 01-27-2017, 06:37 AM   #6
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A sad day...
that I remember well. Like many in my generation, I was mesmerized by the space program. I remember doing a paper on the Saturn V rocket in my youth.
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Old 01-27-2017, 08:38 AM   #7
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Thanks for reminding us of that tragic day. What a tragedy. I still remember how intensely bad I felt on hearing the news.

We almost had our first loss of life in space on the Gemini 8 mission.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_8

Quote:
The mission conducted the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit, but suffered the first critical in-space system failure of a U.S. spacecraft which threatened the lives of the astronauts and required immediate abort of the mission. The crew was returned to Earth safely.
The Command Pilot of that mission - the guy who saved his own life and the life of his fellow crewman, David Scott - was Neil Armstrong.

I've always thought this would make a great movie. Project Gemini has been forgotten by many and is unknown to others. Yet, it achieved a number of important firsts in our manned space travel - first walk in space, first manned vehicle that could change its orbit, first rendevous and docking with another spacecraft.

Exploration is always dangerous not matter how hard we try to make it safe. It takes a special person to accept the risks and face the dangers.

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Old 01-27-2017, 10:58 AM   #8
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Interesting point... the Gemini missions are somewhat of a forgotten stepchild of the Apollo and Mercury programs. There are lots of movies on the Mercury program and some on the Apollo missions but none that I can think of on the Gemini missions... which in terms of knowledge gained was critical to getting to the moon.
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Old 01-27-2017, 12:26 PM   #9
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Interesting point... the Gemini missions are somewhat of a forgotten stepchild of the Apollo and Mercury programs.
Yes, Gemini was quite a project. And it had its share of drama.

The Gemini 6 launch vehicle (Titan II rocket) had engine problems about a second after ignition. Another dangerous event.

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All went well right up to ignition; the engines ignited, but after about 1.5 seconds of operation, they abruptly shut down. Since the clock had started in the spacecraft, mission rules dictated that Wally Schirra, as the commander, had to immediately pull the D-ring above the center console and activate the ejection seats, carrying the astronauts away from the disaster that would be the result of a fully fueled Titan II falling back onto LC-19. However, Schirra did not feel any movement and knew that the booster hadn't lifted, so he decided to not abort.
QUOTE]So it turns out what we would have seen, had we had to do that, would have been two Roman candles going out, because we were 15 or 16 psi, pure oxygen, soaking in that for an hour and a half.[/QUOTE]
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John Young also recalled witnessing a test of the ejector seats where the test dummy was launched right through the capsule hatch.
Schirra made the right call in a life or death situation.

Two life and death situations, an exploding Agena rocket, the first rendezvous in space, the first docking in space..... Hollywood could have a field day making a movie about Project Gemini.
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Old 01-27-2017, 01:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
Like many in my generation, I was mesmerized by the space program. I remember doing a paper on the Saturn V rocket in my youth.
+++1. I wrote one on Project Apollo in the 8th grade. I also had a Saturn V model that was about 4 ft tall.

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Interesting point... the Gemini missions are somewhat of a forgotten stepchild of the Apollo and Mercury programs. ... which in terms of knowledge gained was critical to getting to the moon.
It was Project Gemini where NASA learned and practiced the operations that would be required for Apollo to work - rendezvous, docking, week+ long missions, EVA, etc.
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Old 01-27-2017, 04:01 PM   #11
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Thought this was interesting... I'm going to quote a bunch because I think the text in the link changes from day to day. I thought the last item was the most interesting.

Also, in case you don't yet do it, I really enjoy Trivia Today... once you register they send you one or two trivia questions each day, often relating to that day in history and they follow it up later in the day with interesting facts relating to the event.

[Sorry... link does not seem to work]

Quote:
What Was the Significance of This Date in the History of the Apollo Program?
The three astronauts of Apollo 1 lost their lives due to a number of flaws in the design of the Command Module. In preparation for the first piloted flight of the Apollo-Saturn series, a launch simulation was scheduled. Following completed testing, the Command Module was scheduled to launch in a low orbit around Earth on February 21, 1967. During the rehearsal of the launch, a fire broke out inside the Command Module, killing the three astronauts inside. Inside the module, the astronauts' suits quickly failed, and it is estimated that they died of smoke inhalation 15 to 30 seconds after the suit failure. During this period, rescuers were unable to withstand the toxic fumes and smoke in attempts to rescue the astronauts and were unable to save them.
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Which Astronauts Died in the Fire?
The Command Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 26, 1966. Astronauts lost in the fire were the Command Pilot, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, the Senior Pilot, Edward Higgins White II and Mission Pilot, Roger B. Chaffee. Grissom had been a member of Project Mercury. He was a mechanical engineer and had served as a test pilot with the U.S. Air Force. He had flown in space twice and was the second astronaut to have done so. White was an aeronautical engineer and had served as a test pilot as well. He was the first man to spacewalk on June 3, 1965, from the Gemini 4 space launch. Chaffee was an aeronautical engineer, aviator and naval officer. This was his first spaceflight assignment.
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What Caused the Fire Aboard Apollo 1?
A review board assembled to identify the causes of the fire and subsequent deaths of the astronauts reached the following conclusions. Because the hatch cover opened in instead of out, the door could not be opened due to cabin pressure. The atmosphere inside the module was pure oxygen, which made it flammable. The plumbing carried a coolant that was both corrosive and combustible, and wiring was found to be faulty.

In addition, the cabin contained a number of combustible materials, and preparation for an emergency situation was inadequate. Because of the extreme damage to the module caused by the fire, no definitive conclusion was reached by the board as to the exact cause. Instead, the board concluded that multiple factors had contributed to the accident. As a result of the investigation, the module went through a redesign process to lessen the risk of danger to future astronauts.
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What Happened to the Apollo 1 Module After the Fire?
Following the disaster and subsequent investigation of the accident, the charred remains of the Space Module were taken to the Langley Research Center operated by NASA and located in Hampton, Virginia. The vehicle is stored in a warehouse and has never been available for public viewing. The widows of the astronauts asked that the module be officially designated as Apollo 1, in memory of the flight that never occurred.
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Old 01-27-2017, 04:18 PM   #12
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That's an awful way to go. The astronauts could not open the hatch to get out because flames blocked the hatch release handle initially, and as the temps increased the overpressure inside the capsule (went up to 29 PSI) would have made it impossible to move the inward-opening inner hatch. There were so many problems--the flammability of the materials in the capsule, the inadequate equipment for safety personnel, the design of the hatch, etc. I've also read (can't confirm) that there was no fire suppression gear in the capsule. In space, the plan was simply to depressurize the capsule if there was a fire until it couldn't support combustion anymore (crew would be breathing O2 through their helmets, and be in full pressure suits). They knew that wouldn't work in the atmosphere, but it was a risk that was accepted rather than add the weight of extinguishers.
It was a terrible tragedy, but did result in redesigns of equipment and new procedures than may have saved lives later.
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Old 01-27-2017, 04:23 PM   #13
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I went to Ed White Elementary school as a child in 1968. Obviously I was a little kid so the significance of that was lost on me at the time although I was certainly aware of the space program in general as my dad worked for NASA.
I'm probably wrong but it seems today we are less tolerant of such mistakes and if similar disasters were to happen I wonder on our ability to learn, recover, and most importantly move forward.
The legacy of these 3 astronauts is defined by our success moving forward IMO. Without the follow on success due in no small part to the lessons learned from their sacrifice their legacy would be greatly diminished.

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